As a darkroom printer and analog photographer, I have witnessed the rapid change in photographic technology that will someday render my chosen form of expression obsolete. As I was examining this phenomenon, I realized that the camera and telephone were both invented around the same time in the 1800's. Over the last two centuries these technologies have evolved tremendously and are now becoming one and the same. As cell phones and digital cameras become part of the fabric of modern day society, I journey towards the opposite direction using traditional photographic processes to document what is now becoming a thing of the past—public pay phones.
As a child, I remember using pay phones to call my father after school, or to reach a friend when at the beach. My generation will undoubtedly be one of the last to have such an experience. This project is testament to a changing technology, recording what is now a cultural artifact. Pay phones were once commonplace, but their scarcity and functionality has made them unique and worthy of photographic evidence. I feel the responsibility to document this new paradigm shift while the lens is still open.
Throughout my travels, I learned that there is no "standard" pay phone, despite its public nature. I encountered how unique pay phones are to their respective cities—representative of a people and their social fabric. Each pay phone is a remnant of history, built up by the collective over time. The significance of documenting such an artifact is in its design implications in society. Pay phones gave individuals the power to reach across the world and communicate. Before cell phones, pay phones opened the door for a single quarter.
I use the zone system to shoot and process my Tri-X film. Using my analog camera, I photograph the world's remaining pay phones. Although film and pay phone usage are becoming a thing of the past, I feel they have timeless qualities—just like photographs.
*Read the new Foreword written by Stanford Professor, Michael Shanks: Public Pay Phone Project Foreword